The thing about all this flexible working is all those conference calls. How can you maintain your leadership sangfroid down a phoneline? In my Leadersmithing book, I say that meetings are free training. Conference calls are no different. Here are three cards you can play:
Queen of Hearts – Listening
If you listen to people it makes them feel noticed. Improve your skill and focus by listening on all 3 of these channels:
- Facts – hoovering up the data and reflecting it back as accurately as you can, without notes;
- Emotions – spotting tone, inflection, and body language, and playing it back to test understanding;
- Intuition – accessing your ‘sixth sense’ about what you’re hearing – images, notions,metaphors, anything that might be data for them.
Try this in your next call. Channel-surfing will stop your mind wandering.
Jack of Hearts – Questions
A question is designed to invite a response, so it triggers thought. Leaders who ask good questions therefore appear wise. Raise your game by spotting the question types you use, then improving their range and quality:
- Closed: yes or no
- Open: who what why when where how?
- Leading: shouldn’t you/didn’t you/will you?
- Rhetorical: a question for effect not answer
When you have got the hang of it, try to ask the most useful version of your question that you can.
6 of Hearts – Coaching
If someone asks for advice, use Sir John Whitmore’s GROW model to practise your coaching skills. Ask:
- Goal – what problem are we really trying to solve, or what outcome are we really seeking?
- Reality – what is the situation right now? what has already been tried?
- Options – what else could be tried? whose advice could you seek? who knows the answer?
- Will – what will you do next? will you?
Coaching teaches others to self-coach over time, which will make them more resourceful in the future.
By the way – a final tip for introverts. If you have a raving extrovert like me chairing your call, occasionally they will bark: “Everyone alright with that?” And wait precisely one second before crashing on. You may need more time than that to formulate your response. So get into the habit of immediately shouting “yes!” That stops people like me in their tracks. Then you’ve bought yourself time either to add unimaginable value, or just to say something enthusiastically vapid like “it sounds great!”